Rutgers School of Public Health professor of epidemiology, Dr. William Halperin, along with colleagues from Rutgers School of Environmental and Behavioral Sciences, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Vector Borne Disease Division, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, local and multiple state health departments, and many others, was a senior author of a new Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), “Multistate Infestation with the Exotic Disease–Vector Tick Haemaphysalis longicornis — United States, August 2017–September 2018.” Simultaneously a perspective was published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene by the leadership of CDC’s Vector-Borne Disease Division.
The article, which was published in the CDC’s flagship Journal, focused on the Asian longhorned tick, the first invasive tick to be identified in the United States in eighty years. The tick was identified in New Jersey last year and has since been reported in eight other states and in many domestic animals and wildlife. The tick species – Haemaphysalis longicornis – is indigenous to northeastern Asia, where it has transmitted dangerous pathogens to humans. To date, however, there is no evidence this tick carries pathogens that can impact humans or animals in the U.S., according to the MMWR released last Friday.
“In other parts of the world, the tick has caused serious problems for both humans and livestock,” comments Dr. Halperin. “While we have not seen evidence of the tick impacting human and livestock health in the U.S., the tick has now been found in many states and in many animal species. The tick reproduces prolifically and in Asia and caries pathogens are present in the United States. We really need to bolster our public health activities for tick-borne diseases in general.”
Other lead authors of the CDC report are members of the Rutgers Center for Vector Biology at Rutgers–New Brunswick, departments of public health and agriculture in many states, the leadership of the CDC Vector Borne Disease Division, and many others. Dr. Halperin noted that if we did not have such unfettered and collaborate cooperation among so many people and institutions, we would quite possibly still be in the dark on this issue.
Researchers affiliated with the Rutgers Center for Vector Biology identified the tick species when it was discovered on a sheep in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, in August 2017. Further efforts, including a Rutgers-led statewide “Tick Blitz,” identified the ticks in six other New Jersey counties. Rutgers researchers also confirmed that a retrospective assessment of ticks previously found in the state shows that Asian longhorned ticks have been present in New Jersey since at least 2013.
The ticks have also been found in Connecticut, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Arkansas, according to the CDC report.
The full MMWR, “Multistate Infestation with the Exotic Disease–Vector Tick Haemaphysalis longicornis — United States, August 2017–September 2018,” was published on November 30.